Growing up, the only time I saw the Blessed Sacrament exposed was during our parish's annual Forty Hours Devotion and at the conclusion of the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday night. I don't know if there were adoration chapels or not, but it may not have been much of an issue because our churches were open all day. Now, the minute the last daily Mass has ended (if a daily Mass is even offered) the doors are locked and the Divine Prisoner of Love sits alone.
Adoration is a devotion highly recommended. As a matter of fact, in parishes where perpetual adoration has been instituted, there has actually been a drop in crime in the community where the chapel is located. You have heard the expression "make a Holy Hour". This means spending an hour before the Blessed Sacrament with all of our attention turned to Him. Now, maybe some of you who aren't too familiar with this practice are daunted by having to spend a whole hour in silence. We'll talk about that in a minute.
Some people bring religious books to read, others pray the Rosary or chaplets, and others simply talk to Jesus from the heart, saying whatever they wish or perhaps not saying anything at all. I think if you are Catholic, you should not bring reading material. Then the focus becomes the book, however spiritually enriching, and not the Lord.
A few ground rules.
1. Please, do not engage in conversation with anyone in the chapel. It's disrespectful to Our Lord, and it's disturbing to those trying to pray. If you must speak, go outside the chapel and keep your voice as low as possible
2. Double-check your cell phone to make sure it's silenced BEFORE you enter the chapel
3. Men, remove your hats. I can no longer enter the chapel without a head covering, but ladies, if you haven't reached that point yet, not to worry. However, whether we cover our heads or not, we must wear clothing that is modest. Women should not appear before the Blessed Sacrament with bare arms, legs, midriffs, etc. Neither should men. You need not dress to the nines, so long as your clothing is respectful of the Lord and not a distraction to others.
4. When the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, if you are physically able, kneel on both knees, bow, say some words of praise or contrition, and take your seat. If that's not possible but you can manage to genuflect, do that. If unable to kneel, offer as profound a bow as you can.
5. Do not rattle paper or plastic bags, make clicking noises, pick at your nails, etc. Be as silent as you can.
6. It's better to be comfortable and quiet than to force yourself into an uncomfortable position which you find yourself constantly changing. Adoration is not intended to be a penitential devotion, though you can certainly make it so if you wish. The most important thing is to place all your focus on Him. That is easier said than done, but it doesn't excuse us from trying our hardest.
7. Making a Holy Hour is wonderful. However, even a few minutes before the Monstrance are better than nothing at all. If you are new to adoration and concerned about being able to sit and pray for an hour, start small. Commit yourself to 15 solid minutes of Christ-centered prayer and let the Holy Spirit lead you. You may find it is just long enough or you may desire to pray longer. Either way, it's ok. Do your best and don't let perceived shortcomings discourage you.
8. If you are unsure what to pray, you can never go wrong with the Rosary. Many times when I found myself unexpectedly at Adoration (meaning I didn't set out to go to the chapel, but found myself there anyway) the Rosary in my pocket was all I needed. The times I've been able to manage saying all four mysteries have been before the Blessed Sacrament.
9. Please make sure if you are mouthing your prayers, that you do so in absolute silence. The only time it is acceptable to pray out loud is if a community Rosary or Divine Mercy Chaplet is scheduled for a specific time and people would like to participate.
10. Don't forget to thank the Lord for His personal love for you in the Blessed Sacrament.
I think there is nothing more edifying than seeing one of the parish priests engaged in Adoration along with the community. At the chapel a few blocks from here, the wonderful Father Jim Galligan was often present during the day and always during the last evening hour of Adoration. He allowed people to interrupt him so he could hear their confessions. When Father Jim was present, I could sense sometimes that he was offering prayers to Jesus Christ on behalf of some poor hurting soul who had wandered in in search of the Lord's consolation. The other benefit of having him present ( he has since retired and lives at Villanova) was that people minded their manners. Father is a very kindly man, but he has no tolerance whatsoever for disrespectful behavior toward Jesus in the Eucharist. I wish I would see more priests like him. I know priests have private chapels in their rectories or friaries, but I still think their presence at Adoration along with the flock can only be a good thing.
Try to set aside time at least once a week for adoration. As I said before, if you don't have an hour or if you can't concentrate that long or have some infirmity that prohibits you from staying longer, even a few minutes are better than nothing at all.
Father Galligan used to say that he had two crutches. One was confession and the other adoration. I was especially moved by something very simple that he once told us.
"When He sees you sitting there, He does not see your sins. All He sees is a person He loves very much and longs to have near Him."
Listen to the words of St. John Vianney.
"If we really loved the good God, we should make it our joy and happiness to come and spend a few moments to adore Him, and ask Him for the grace of forgiveness; and we should regard those moments as the happiest of our lives."